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Tunisian Braised Short Ribs

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Serves six.

  • by Susie Middleton from Fine Cooking
    Issue 103

Dried figs and a Mediterranean spice blend give these short ribs a North African twist. Serve them over a fluffy herbed couscous pile. Or customize your own braised short rib recipe with the Recipe Maker.

  • 4-1/2 to 5 lb. English-style beef short ribs (8 to 12 ribs)
  • 3 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 cup medium-diced carrots
  • 1 cup medium-diced onions
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped dried figs
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped garlic
  • 2 to 3 whole star anise
  • 2 whole cinnamon sticks
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup lower-salt chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 to 2 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 to 2 Tbs. thinly sliced fresh mint

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. In an 8-quart Dutch oven, heat 2 Tbs. of the oil over medium heat. Season the ribs with 2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper. Add half of the ribs to the pot (or as many as will fit without overlap), and cook, turning with tongs, until nicely browned on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer the ribs to a platter and repeat with the remaining ribs. Pour off all but a thin layer of fat from the pan.

Add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil, carrots and onions to the pan. Season with 1/2 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan, until the aromatics are soft and lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Addthe chopped dried figs, ginger, garlic, star anise, and cinnamon sticks, and cook, stirring, until well distributed and fragrant, about 1 minute.

Pour 1/2 cup of the red wine into the pot and cook, stirring to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot, until the liquid is reduced to about 2 Tbs., about 1 minute.

Transfer all the ribs (and any juices that have accumulated) back into the pot. Pour the tomatoes, chicken broth, soy sauce, remaining 1/2 cup of red wine, and 1 cup water over the ribs and using tongs, arrange the ribs as evenly as possible and no more than two layers deep.

Bring the liquid to a simmer, cover, and put the pot in the oven. Cook, turning the ribs with tongs about every 40 minutes, until they are fork tender, about 2-3/4 hours. (The meat may fall off most of the bones about midway through cooking; this does not mean that the ribs are fully tender.)

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve the ribs with the sauce spooned over, sprinkled with chopped parsley and chopped mint.

Make Ahead Tips

It's best to braise short ribs a day (or at least several hours) ahead for a couple of reasons. First, this allows you to chill the sauce so it can be defatted thoroughly. Also, the flavors only get better with time. To reheat, arrange the meat snugly in a baking dish, cover with foil, and put in a 350°F oven. Reheat the sauce on the stovetop.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 500; Fat (g): 25; Fat Calories (kcal): 220; Saturated Fat (g): 8; Protein (g): 36; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 11; Carbohydrates (g): 25; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 3.5; Sodium (mg): 940; Cholesterol (mg): 80; Fiber (g): 4;

Photo: Scott Phillips

I've made this recipe a few times and love it. It does have a granular texture from the figs, which I can appreciate might not be appealing to everyone. I'm going to try it again with dried apricots, to avoid the grainy texture while preserving the sweet flavour.

This did not turn out well at all. The figs left strange "crunchy" seads all through the sauce, and there was an aftertaste that reminded us of prunes.

Although the recipe looks much more complicated than it actually is, it's just a matter of a good dutch oven and assembling your materials. The results are outstanding. Have served this several time with couscous laced with raisins and goat cheese and it has always been a hit. Leftovers are even better!

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